Selling Used Books on Amazon: Is it Worth it?

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As a committed advocate of making money on eBay, I was surprisingly reluctant to branch out into selling used books on Amazon.

However, I found myself with a backlog of books waiting for me to list them on eBay. Whenever I had time to list a few items to sell, I opted for higher value things like movies and video games.

The ever-growing book pile finally prompted me to take action and explore Amazon Seller Central – and I’m delighted I did.

I’ve not been using the platform for about a year, so have plenty of insight to share.

Selling your Books on Amazon: The Quick Guide

If you have a short attention span and don’t wish to read the entire article, here’s a quick ten point “TL;DR!”

  1. Set up your Amazon seller account.
  2. Choose which marketplaces you want to sell your books in.
  3. Begin listing your books and building your inventory.
  4. As you list each book, decide whether you want to sell it at the lowest available price or hold out for more money.
  5. Carefully consider the shipping cost of each book to ensure you don’t lose money on the shipping credit.
  6. Review your inventory to check your stock is correctly priced and make any tweaks.
  7. Have packaging materials ready so that you can dispatch books quickly. Be sure to post everything you sell on time.
  8. Keep your inventory updated with new stock regularly.
  9. Have an inventory clear out from time to time, giving non-sellers to charity (if you feel so inclined – you can leave them listed indefinitely if you prefer).
  10. Sit back and watch the profits roll in.

Want to learn more, and pick up some tips? Read on!

Getting Started

I planned to use Amazon to sell my used books, so opted for the ‘individual seller’ account. This has no monthly fee and is perfect if you’re having a clear-out. You can sell up to 35 items per month on this basic selling programme (40 in the US). If you plan to sell more than this, there is a professional selling programme priced at £25 plus VAT per month in the UK ($39.99 per month plus additional selling fees in the US).

I already had an Amazon account (for purchases), which meant the registration process was pretty straightforward – you provide a name for your selling account, along with your contact and bank account details and information relating to shipping.

You then decide which Amazon marketplaces you want to sell on. I’m in the UK, so was offered five in total: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, Amazon.it and Amazon.es. I assume that you are given a different selection if you’re elsewhere in the world, presumably US and Canada if you’re the other side of the Atlantic. You can change which marketplaces you sell on at any time, with a single click in your account settings.

Amazon Selling Account – Listing Items

Listing books for sale on Amazon is one of the highlights of using Amazon Seller Central, because it’s so incredibly easy. Listing a book takes just 30-60 seconds. You tap in the ISBN number, then choose your item from the couple of results that pop up. Next, you tap in the price, quantity and condition. And that’s it!

Selling used books on Amazon

There are more advanced selling options if you want to use them to include information such as the book’s release date, restocking date, notes on the condition, etc. However, for a standard paperback that you’ve read and want rid of, the simple options detailed above should suffice.

Compared to the photographs, item descriptions and other bits that you need to do to sell books on eBay, listing them on Amazon is a dream. 

Your shipping fees are fixed by Amazon – more on that below…

When you list a book, Amazon will show you how many other editions of that book (both new and used) are currently for sale and in what price range. This means that you can set your price point to be the lowest on Amazon, should you choose to do so. I’ve done this with a few books and it has resulted in quick sales. With other books, I’ve opted for a higher price and am happy to sit back and wait for the sale in due course.

This flexibility is one of the great features of selling on Amazon – once you’ve listed your product, it’s there until you sell it or decide to delete the listing. That means you are entirely in control of your timescales as well as your prices. Personally, I leave books listed for around three months and then send any unsold ones to my local charity shop. However, there’s nothing to stop you leaving your books for sale indefinitely.

Managing Book Sales on Amazon

Once you’ve listed a book for sale, it appears in your inventory. This is your one-stop-shop for managing your sales, from adjusting listing prices to previewing fees to copying listings for books that you have multiple copies of.

It’s a joy to use – simple and intuitive. The fees preview feature is particularly useful, as you can work out at a glance exactly what you’re going to make on each book you sell.

Amazon Seller Inventory

There are plenty of other handy features for managing your account. One useful function is the ability to mark your account as ‘away’ while you’re on holiday or just want to take a break from selling. I make sure to use this whenever we go overseas, or just want a few days of uninterrupted family time without any trips to the post office.

Amazon Seller Central – Shipping

Shipping options include standard (3-5 days, which you have to offer), express (within 24 hours) and international (5-35 days). Amazon sets fixed delivery fees and credits for each shipping method.

For a standard delivery book sale, Amazon will give you a delivery credit of £2.80 ($3.99) at the time of writing. This is a fixed fee, which means that if your book can be delivered for less, you do well out of the credit. If your book is larger and costs more to post, you lose out.

In my view, it’s an irritating policy. You need to factor in the shipping credit amount when setting the price for your item in order to avoid accidentally losing money with heavier books. The shipping fee is fixed when you list a book for sale, so if it will really cost more to post, you need to adjust your asking price accordingly – and then pay higher fees as a result (see below for more on Amazon’s fees).

There is also the option to offer free delivery, should you wish. Again, you need to factor that into your sale price. You also need to factor in the amount you will pay in fees…

Amazon Selling Fees for Books

It was rumours of high selling fees that initially put me off trying out selling used books on Amazon. However, with eBay fees of 10% and PayPal fees of 3.4% plus 20p per transaction, I thought it was time to see how Amazon compared.

It’s worth noting that the example below is specific to my experiences in the UK. In the USA and elsewhere your individual mileage may vary.

However, the general answer to the question of how Amazon’s fees compare is…not very favourably. A selling fee of £0.75p / €0.99 per book, plus a referral fee of 15% quickly add up. In the example below, a book sold for £3.49 appears to generate a profit of £4.10. However, you still have to pay for the postage out of that £4.10, meaning that in reality you walk away with £1.15 at most (assuming I use the UK Royal Mail’s cheapest small parcel service).

Amazon selling example

Selling a book for the same price on eBay would leave you with around £2.82 after eBay and PayPal fees, plus whatever you’ve decided to charge for postage.

So Is It Worth Selling Used Books on Amazon?

While eBay seems the clear winner in terms of price, Amazon has absolutely nailed the listing process. It’s so incredibly simple and fast that I’m happy to pay a higher premium in order to sell my books there. After all, my time has a value too.

Personally, I use a mix of both Amazon and eBay. Any books that are thin and lightweight go straight on Amazon, while I save heftier tomes for eBay.

If you’re time-rich, then it might be better to stick with eBay for selling your books. However, if you’re short on time and happy to take a bit more of a hit in terms of the fees, then selling used books on Amazon Seller Central can be a great little side gig.

Insider Insights

Amazon Seller Insights

Now I’ve been running my own little Amazon bookstore for a while, I’ve picked up a few useful insights which should help you to maximise your income:

  1. Seasonality matters: My busiest month BY far was November, presumably due to people buying things for Christmas. (Some of the sales are shown in the screenshot above). It’s well worth making sure you have plenty listed for this period.
  2. Some things sell better than others: I’ve had particular success with big hardback books. Also, generally speaking, non-fiction tends to do better than novels do.
  3. Keep things in good condition: If you read a lot of books and plan to resell them, you’ll get a lot more money back if they’re well looked after. Bookmarks are a better plan than folded down pages!

Other Ways to Earn from your Clutter

These articles should make useful follow-up reading:

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About Author

Louise Taylor

Louise became a freelancer by mistake after getting made redundant whilst living in a country with no jobs - but she hasn’t looked back since. She is committed to helping others pursue their freelancing goals and enjoy a happier work/life balance as a result.

2 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Julie Beaumont on

    Hi, just been reading your comments about FBA and really just wanted some reassurance. I’m English and living in France. I’ve been doing some research recently into FBA selling books as I think it’s something I could do from anywhere, you don’t have to read the book. I think it could be a good way to earn extra money . I’m planning to set myself up on the Europe central site as maybe I’ll have English books as well as French and also I can understand the English site better which in turn will allow me to work in France as well. At the moment I’m doing lots of research into it, but do you envisage any problem if I work like that? I’d appreciate any comments or advice, thanks, Julie.

    • Avatar

      Hi Julie,

      Selling by FBA is very different to what we’re talking about in this particular article. I don’t like advise on things I don’t know about so cannot give any advice on FBA – I know that plenty of people do make money that way but I have no personal experience of it. As and when I cover it I will update this post and link to it.

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